His daughter asks him if she should try out for the sports team. He thinks she is not up to it. He wants to protect her from failure. So he tells her not to try. He tells her that it will be too difficult. He tells her that the sport is not that much fun anyway. He tells her that she will be much happier if she would just do He tells her not to trysomething else.

His employee approaches him with a brilliant new idea. He loves the idea, but he does not believe his team can pull it off successfully. He tells them it’s too risky, too much work, and ultimately it is not a good idea.

He is acting like the biblical spies.

The children of Israel’s journey through the desert took a disastrous turn when they asked Moses to dispatch spies to the land of Canaan to scout out the land and its inhabitants. Moses handpicked 12 leaders, one per tribe, and sent them off. They returned to Moses and the people, and reported that despite G‑d’s assurances, conquering the land was impossible:

We came to the land to which you sent us, and it is flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who inhabit the land are mighty, and the cities are extremely huge and fortified, and there we saw even the offspring of the giant. . . . We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.

They spread an [evil] report about the land which they had scouted, telling the children of Israel, “The land we passed through to explore is a land that consumes its inhabitants.”1

Virtually all the commentators ask the same question: How is it possible that the spies had a complete loss of faith after experiencing all the miracles of the Exodus firsthand? How is it possible that great men, handpicked by Moses, failed to maintain their trust in G‑d?

Perhaps we can suggest that the spies never lost faith in G‑d or in His ability to perform miracles. They trusted G‑d, but they did not trust the people.

Sure, they thought, G‑d is perfectly capable of performing miracles if He wishes to do so. The problem, the spies thought, was that there was no chance the people would remain loyal to G‑d and deserving of His protection. They therefore concluded that conquering Canaan was impossible, because the people were not up to the task.

Seeking to protect their beloved people from failure, the spies reacted like the father trying to discourage his daughter in order to protect her from failure. They said that the task was too difficult: “We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” They told the people that the land is not desirable in the first place: “The land we passed through to explore is a land that consumes its inhabitants.”

The spies may have acted out of love, but they failed both the mission and the people they They failed both the mission and the peoplewere meant to serve. In moments of challenge, a leader must lift up, inspire, teach, encourage and show others how to discover the reservoirs of faith, courage and strength hidden within the soul.

We are all leaders in our circle of influence. Our family and friends look to us for guidance. We must remember never to underestimate and discourage as the spies did, for we must always be like Moses, Joshua and Caleb, who believed in the people and sought to discover within them the treasures that lay hidden deep within their souls.